Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Have a Dollar
When a stranger on the street asks me for money, I reflexively say no. I hate that. My mouth says no, and I'm deflecting the presence of a stranger before my mind even has a chance to consider giving. Nearly every time, I feel bad about it. Even as I'm saying no, I'm thinking through how difficult it would be to move my bag off my back, open the zipper, dig through for my wallet, unfold it, and remove a dollar. I'm thinking about how slow and inefficient this act would be. The walk signal is about to come on and I won't make it across and I'll have to wait through another cycle of lights. I'm thinking that I want to give this person a dollar, and if it was right in my pocket, easy and quick to grab, I would hand it over and not be troubled in the least. It seems so silly that the extra forty-five seconds it would take to get out a buck dissuades me from an insignificant act of generosity. I recognize, though, that there is more going on than the discomfort at the interruption of my flow down the street towards my destination. There is the breaking into my private sphere by someone I don't know, pushing me and my shyness to deal with an unexpected confrontation with a stranger. There is the trained-in habit of being wary of people--particularly of men--approaching me, a woman traveling through her day alone (or alone-ish, with baby). I hate this, too. I wonder, if I made a habit of keeping a dollar (or a handful of change even) in my pocket when I go out into the world each day, could I break the habit of deflecting strangers, and over time, change my brain's habit of feeling wary of strange men?